It's a New Era - and We Need Volunteers!
By Larry Hodges
USATT Board Member, League Chair, and Regional Associations Coordinator
Let's be honest. It's silly to think that an organization with six full-time staff members (plus a few contractors and volunteers), with a budget the size of a 7-11, can organize and run table tennis all over the United States.
Instead, we need to have Regional and State Associations all over the country, with each one primarily in charge of the table tennis activity in their region or state. There are surprisingly few right now and that needs to change. This is how successful table tennis countries are organized, as well as successful sports in the U.S. And that's what we need to do as well.
And that's why we need you. We're looking for volunteers interested in taking charge of developing the sport in their region. These organizations could roughly parallel the regions used in the National College Table Tennis Association, or individual states could have their own regional association. USATT will supply a sample bylaws, but you'd be free to make changes, within reason.
To address these issues, the first step is to find out what regional and state associations are out there. There aren't that many. Below is our current listing - please email us if you have info on ones we don't know about or other info - and especially if you'd like to volunteer to help create one in your region. Some of them are for only a city, so it might be better to organize on a larger scale. For example, California has a Bay Area and Los Angeles Table Tennis Federations; we probably need Northern and Southern California Table Tennis Associations. (There used to be a Southern California TTA, but it doesn't seem to exist anymore.)
What would a Regional Association do? In general, they'd be in charge of table tennis in their region. More specifically, we'd like to see a three-pronged approach:
- State Championships in every state, with a goal of 50 state championships (plus DC) in 2016.
- Regional Team Leagues in each region. Here's a Team League prototype.
- Training Centers in every populated area.
State Championships would give each region an annual event to organize around. Currently only 13 states have State Championships that we know of, with another 15 having State Games - here's the current listing. Please email us if there are any we missed, and especially if you are interested in running one. (Since the notice went up in October, people in eight states have stepped forward to run ones in their sate. Soon we'll be contacting leaders in various states to get these set up.)
We'd help you out, supplying a prototype entry form which you can adjust for your needs, info on how to set up and run it, and a free emailing to current and past USATT members in your region. (USATT has huge numbers of players in its database.) An added benefit is that these tournaments can raise money for the association or club.
In most cases, these Championships are rather small affairs. We'd like to change that. We'd encourage each region to create a list of media links (Google is our friend here, as well as USATT Media Director Richard Finn), so that before and after each State Championship local media would get flooded with press releases, leading to lots of local media coverage.
Regional Team Leagues are how most successful table tennis countries get huge membership numbers (such as Germany's 600,000), as well as how most successful sports in the U.S., such as tennis (700,000 members) and bowling (over two million members).
To help you get started, here is a Team League prototype, which you may vary as necessary. It is based on various successful table tennis leagues in the U.S., as well as ones overseas and leagues in other sports in the U.S. Little is written in stone; use this as a starting point, and go from there.
Here's our current listing of team leagues - please email us if you have information on others.
- Austin Texas League
- Capital Area Super League (DC area)
- Chicago League
- Denver League
- Genesee Valley League (Rochester, NY)
- LA League
- NY League
Training Centers are the fastest growing part of table tennis in the U.S., with an increase from about 10 to 80 in the past eight years. (Here's a listing.) It used to be thought there weren't enough players to support such training centers, but experience has shown us that the first job of a Training Center is to create the demand with various programs. Here is the new USATT Club Development Handbook, which might help you in setting one up. Or contact me, since I co-founded and have helped run the MDTTC for 24 years. We need to recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run these training centers. (I plan to make this a focus next year.)
To recap, if you are interested in getting involved in any of the following...
- Creating a Regional or State Association in your state or region
- Running a State Championship
- Setting up and running a Regional Team League
- Setting up and running a Training Center
...please email us!